With the second wave of coronavirus spreading like wildfire, Banke has emerged as a COVID hotspot in the country now.

However, as the district grapples with more cases and requires more oxygen, there are reports of smuggling of the vital commodity to India.

As per reports, the Uttar Pradesh government of India is buying off the oxygen produced by HO Oxygen Industries Pvt Ltd of Nepalgunj submetropolis from local traders to save the lives of people battling for their lives against COVID-19.

Smuggling has been unabated even though health workers have urged traders not to smuggle oxygen available here to India.

According to Jamunaha Area Police Office Sub-inspector Bishnu Giri, for a week every day two to three vehicles loaded with oxygen are being exported to India from Nepalgunj. "As we haven't got any order from the higher-ups to stop the export of the commodity, we couldn't stop it," he said.

Pradip Shahi, a local of Nepalgunj said it was a crime to smuggle the vital commodity out of the country when COVID patients were increasing in hospitals in Nepal and the demand for oxygen was increasing. He further urged the local administration to take action against smugglers.

Meanwhile, Nepagunj Medical College Assistant Director Dr Nitesh Kanodiya said the liquid oxygen tank at the hospital was running out fast.

"As even India has stopped the export of oxygen now, we haven't been able to bring into operation additional 300 beds for COVID-19 patients that we had planned earlier," he said. He further informed that the hospital has oxygen only for a few days more.

He further urged the government to do something immediately to facilitate import of liquid oxygen from India.

A version of this article appears in the print on May 5, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.